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    Chapter 60

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    Chapter 60
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    CHAPTER 60
    The Telegraph.

    M. and Madame de Villefort found on their return that the
    Count of Monte Cristo, who had come to visit them in their
    absence, had been ushered into the drawing-room, and was
    still awaiting them there. Madame de Villefort, who had not
    yet sufficiently recovered from her late emotion to allow of
    her entertaining visitors so immediately, retired to her
    bedroom, while the procureur, who could better depend upon
    himself, proceeded at once to the salon. Although M. de
    Villefort flattered himself that, to all outward view, he
    had completely masked the feelings which were passing in his
    mind, he did not know that the cloud was still lowering on
    his brow, so much so that the count, whose smile was
    radiant, immediately noticed his sombre and thoughtful air.
    "Ma foi," said Monte Cristo, after the first compliments
    were over, "what is the matter with you, M. de Villefort?
    Have I arrived at the moment when you were drawing up an
    indictment for a capital crime?" Villefort tried to smile.
    "No, count," he replied, "I am the only victim in this case.
    It is I who lose my cause, and it is ill-luck, obstinacy,
    and folly which have caused it to be decided against me."

    "To what do you refer?" said Monte Cristo with well-feigned
    interest. "Have you really met with some great misfortune?"

    "Oh, no, monsieur," said Villefort with a bitter smile; "it
    is only a loss of money which I have sustained -- nothing
    worth mentioning, I assure you."

    "True," said Monte Cristo, "the loss of a sum of money
    becomes almost immaterial with a fortune such as you
    possess, and to one of your philosophic spirit."

    "It is not so much the loss of the money that vexes me,"
    said Villefort, "though, after all, 900,000 francs are worth
    regretting; but I am the more annoyed with this fate,
    chance, or whatever you please to call the power which has
    destroyed my hopes and my fortune, and may blast the
    prospects of my child also, as it is all occasioned by an
    old man relapsed into second childhood."

    "What do you say?" said the count; "900,000 francs? It is
    indeed a sum which might be regretted even by a philosopher.
    And who is the cause of all this annoyance?"

    "My father, as I told you."

    "M. Noirtier? But I thought you told me he had become
    entirely paralyzed, and that all his faculties were
    completely destroyed?"

    "Yes, his bodily faculties, for he can neither move nor
    speak, nevertheless he thinks, acts, and wills in the manner
    I have described. I left him about five minutes ago, and he
    is now occupied in dictating his will to two notaries."

    "But to do this he must have spoken?"

    "He has done better than that -- he has made himself
    understood."

    "How was such a thing possible?"

    "By the help of his eyes, which are still full of life, and,
    as you perceive, possess the power of inflicting mortal
    injury."

    "My dear," said Madame de Villefort, who had just entered
    the room, "perhaps you exaggerate the evil."

    "Good-morning, madame," said the count, bowing. Madame de
    Villefort acknowledged the salutation with one of her most
    gracious smiles. "What is this that M. de Villefort has been
    telling me?" demanded Monte Cristo "and what
    incomprehensible misfortune" --

    "Incomprehensible is not the word," interrupted the
    procureur, shrugging his shoulders. "It is an old man's
    caprice."

    "And is there no means of making him revoke his decision?"

    "Yes," said Madame de Villefort; "and it is still entirely
    in the power of my husband to cause the will, which is now
    in prejudice of Valentine, to be altered in her favor." The
    count, who perceived that M. and Madame de Villefort were
    beginning to speak in parables, appeared to pay no attention
    to the conversation, and feigned to be busily engaged in
    watching Edward, who was mischievously pouring some ink into
    the bird's water-glass. "My dear," said Villefort, in answer
    to his wife, "you know I have never been accustomed to play
    the patriarch in my family, nor have I ever considered that
    the fate of a universe was to be decided by my nod.
    Nevertheless, it is necessary that my will should be
    respected in my family, and that the folly of an old man and
    the caprice of a child should not be allowed to overturn a
    project which I have entertained for so many years. The
    Baron d'Epinay was my friend, as you know, and an alliance
    with his son is the most suitable thing that could possibly
    be arranged."

    "Do you think," said Madame de Villefort, "that Valentine is
    in league with him? She has always been opposed to this
    marriage, and I should not be at all surprised if what we
    have just seen and heard is nothing but the execution of a
    plan concerted between them."

    "Madame," said Villefort, "believe me, a fortune of 900,000
    francs is not so easily renounced."

    "She could, nevertheless, make up her mind to renounce the
    world, sir, since it is only about a year ago that she
    herself proposed entering a convent."

    "Never mind," replied Villefort; "I say that this marriage
    shall be consummated."

    "Notwithstanding your father's wishes to the contrary?" said
    Madame de Villefort, selecting a new point of attack. "That
    is a serious thing." Monte Cristo, who pretended not to be
    listening, heard however, every word that was said.
    "Madame," replied Villefort "I can truly say that I have
    always entertained a high respect for my father, because, to
    the natural feeling of relationship was added the
    consciousness of his moral superiority. The name of father
    is sacred in two senses; he should be reverenced as the
    author of our being and as a master whom we ought to obey.
    But, under the present circumstances, I am justified in
    doubting the wisdom of an old man who, because he hated the
    father, vents his anger on the son. It would be ridiculous
    in me to regulate my conduct by such caprices. I shall still
    continue to preserve the same respect toward M. Noirtier; I
    will suffer, without complaint, the pecuniary deprivation to
    which he has subjected me; but I shall remain firm in my
    determination, and the world shall see which party his
    reason on his side. Consequently I shall marry my daughter
    to the Baron Franz d'Epinay, because I consider it would be
    a proper and eligible match for her to make, and, in short,
    because I choose to bestow my daughter's hand on whomever I
    please."

    "What?" said the count, the approbation of whose eye
    Villefort had frequently solicited during this speech.
    "What? Do you say that M. Noirtier disinherits Mademoiselle
    de Villefort because she is going to marry M. le Baron Franz
    d'Epinay?"

    "Yes, sir, that is the reason," said Villefort, shrugging
    his shoulders.

    "The apparent reason, at least," said Madame de Villefort.

    "The real reason, madame, I can assure you; I know my
    father."

    "But I want to know in what way M. d'Epinay can have
    displeased your father more than any other person?"

    "I believe I know M. Franz d'Epinay," said the count; "is he
    not the son of General de Quesnel, who was created Baron
    d'Epinay by Charles X.?"

    "The same," said Villefort.

    "Well, but he is a charming young man, according to my
    ideas."

    "He is, which makes me believe that it is only an excuse of
    M. Noirtier to prevent his granddaughter marrying; old men
    are always so selfish in their affection," said Madame de
    Villefort.

    "But," said Monte Cristo "do you not know any cause for this
    hatred?"

    "Ah, ma foi, who is to know?"

    "Perhaps it is some political difference?"

    "My father and the Baron d'Epinay lived in the stormy times
    of which I only saw the ending," said Villefort.

    "Was not your father a Bonapartist?" asked Monte Cristo; "I
    think I remember that you told me something of that kind."

    "My father has been a Jacobin more than anything else," said
    Villefort, carried by his emotion beyond the bounds of
    prudence; "and the senator's robe, which Napoleon cast on
    his shoulders, only served to disguise the old man without
    in any degree changing him. When my father conspired, it was
    not for the emperor, it was against the Bourbons; for M.
    Noirtier possessed this peculiarity, he never projected any
    Utopian schemes which could never be realized, but strove
    for possibilities, and he applied to the realization of
    these possibilities the terrible theories of The Mountain,
    -- theories that never shrank from any means that were
    deemed necessary to bring about the desired result."

    "Well," said Monte Cristo, "it is just as I thought; it was
    politics which brought Noirtier and M. d'Epinay into
    personal contact. Although General d'Epinay served under
    Napoleon, did he not still retain royalist sentiments? And
    was he not the person who was assassinated one evening on
    leaving a Bonapartist meeting to which he had been invited
    on the supposition that he favored the cause of the
    emperor?" Villefort looked at the count almost with terror.
    "Am I mistaken, then?" said Monte Cristo.

    "No, sir, the facts were precisely what you have stated,"
    said Madame de Villefort; "and it was to prevent the renewal
    of old feuds that M. de Villefort formed the idea of uniting
    in the bonds of affection the two children of these
    inveterate enemies."

    "It was a sublime and charitable thought," said Monte
    Cristo, "and the whole world should applaud it. It would be
    noble to see Mademoiselle Noirtier de Villefort assuming the
    title of Madame Franz d'Epinay." Villefort shuddered and
    looked at Monte Cristo as if he wished to read in his
    countenance the real feelings which had dictated the words
    he had just uttered. But the count completely baffled the
    procureur, and prevented him from discovering anything
    beneath the never-varying smile he was so constantly in the
    habit of assuming. "Although," said Villefort, "it will be a
    serious thing for Valentine to lose her grandfather's
    fortune, I do not think that M. d'Epinay will be frightened
    at this pecuniary loss. He will, perhaps, hold me in greater
    esteem than the money itself, seeing that I sacrifice
    everything in order to keep my word with him. Besides, he
    knows that Valentine is rich in right of her mother, and
    that she will, in all probability, inherit the fortune of M.
    and Madame de Saint-Meran, her mother's parents, who both
    love her tenderly."

    "And who are fully as well worth loving and tending as M.
    Noirtier," said Madame de Villefort; "besides, they are to
    come to Paris in about a month, and Valentine, after the
    affront she has received, need not consider it necessary to
    continue to bury herself alive by being shut up with M.
    Noirtier." The count listened with satisfaction to this tale
    of wounded self-love and defeated ambition. "But it seems to
    me," said Monte Cristo, "and I must begin by asking your
    pardon for what I am about to say, that if M. Noirtier
    disinherits Mademoiselle de Villefort because she is going
    to marry a man whose father he detested, he cannot have the
    same cause of complaint against this dear Edward."

    "True," said Madame de Villefort, with an intonation of
    voice which it is impossible to describe; "is it not unjust
    -- shamefully unjust? Poor Edward is as much M. Noirtier's
    grandchild as Valentine, and yet, if she had not been going
    to marry M. Franz, M. Noirtier would have left her all his
    money; and supposing Valentine to be disinherited by her
    grandfather, she will still be three times richer than he."
    The count listened and said no more. "Count," said
    Villefort, "we will not entertain you any longer with our
    family misfortunes. It is true that my patrimony will go to
    endow charitable institutions, and my father will have
    deprived me of my lawful inheritance without any reason for
    doing so, but I shall have the satisfaction of knowing that
    I have acted like a man of sense and feeling. M. d'Epinay,
    to whom I had promised the interest of this sum, shall
    receive it, even if I endure the most cruel privations."

    "However," said Madame de Villefort, returning to the one
    idea which incessantly occupied her mind, "perhaps it would
    be better to explain this unlucky affair to M. d'Epinay, in
    order to give him the opportunity of himself renouncing his
    claim to the hand of Mademoiselle de Villefort."

    "Ah, that would be a great pity," said Villefort.

    "A great pity," said Monte Cristo.

    "Undoubtedly," said Villefort, moderating the tones of his
    voice, "a marriage once concerted and then broken off,
    throws a sort of discredit on a young lady; then again, the
    old reports, which I was so anxious to put an end to, will
    instantly gain ground. No, it will all go well; M. d'Epinay,
    if he is an honorable man, will consider himself more than
    ever pledged to Mademoiselle de Villefort, unless he were
    actuated by a decided feeling of avarice, but that is
    impossible."

    "I agree with M. de Villefort," said Monte Cristo, fixing
    his eyes on Madame de Villefort; "and if I were sufficiently
    intimate with him to allow of giving my advice, I would
    persuade him, since I have been told M. d'Epinay is coming
    back, to settle this affair at once beyond all possibility
    of revocation. I will answer for the success of a project
    which will reflect so much honor on M. de Villefort." The
    procureur arose, delighted with the proposition, but his
    wife slightly changed color. "Well, that is all that I
    wanted, and I will be guided by a counsellor such as you
    are," said he, extending his hand to Monte Cristo.
    "Therefore let every one here look upon what has passed
    to-day as if it had not happened, and as though we had never
    thought of such a thing as a change in our original plans."

    "Sir," said the count, "the world, unjust as it is, will be
    pleased with your resolution; your friends will be proud of
    you, and M. d'Epinay, even if he took Mademoiselle de
    Villefort without any dowry, which he will not do, would be
    delighted with the idea of entering a family which could
    make such sacrifices in order to keep a promise and fulfil a
    duty." At the conclusion of these words, the count rose to
    depart. "Are you going to leave us, count?" said Madame de
    Villefort.

    "I am sorry to say I must do so, madame, I only came to
    remind you of your promise for Saturday."

    "Did you fear that we should forget it?"

    "You are very good, madame, but M. de Villefort has so many
    important and urgent occupations."

    "My husband has given me his word, sir," said Madame de
    Villefort; "you have just seen him resolve to keep it when
    he has everything to lose, and surely there is more reason
    for his doing so where he has everything to gain."

    "And," said Villefort, "is it at your house in the
    Champs-Elysees that you receive your visitors?"

    "No," said Monte Cristo, "which is precisely the reason
    which renders your kindness more meritorious, -- it is in
    the country."

    "In the country?"

    "Yes."

    "Where is it, then? Near Paris, is it not?"

    "Very near, only half a league from the Barriers, -- it is
    at Auteuil."

    "At Auteuil?" said Villefort; "true, Madame de Villefort
    told me you lived at Auteuil, since it was to your house
    that she was taken. And in what part of Auteuil do you
    reside?"

    "Rue de la Fontaine."

    "Rue de la Fontaine!" exclaimed Villefort in an agitated
    tone; "at what number?"

    "No. 28."

    "Then," cried Villefort, "was it you who bought M. de
    Saint-Meran's house!"

    "Did it belong to M. de Saint-Meran?" demanded Monte Cristo.

    "Yes," replied Madame de Villefort; "and, would you believe
    it, count" --

    "Believe what?"

    "You think this house pretty, do you not?"

    "I think it charming."

    "Well, my husband would never live in it."

    "Indeed?" returned Monte Cristo, "that is a prejudice on
    your part, M. de Villefort, for which I am quite at a loss
    to account."

    "I do not like Auteuil, sir," said the procureur, making an
    evident effort to appear calm.

    "But I hope you will not carry your antipathy so far as to
    deprive me of the pleasure of your company, sir," said Monte
    Cristo.

    "No, count, -- I hope -- I assure you I shall do my best,"
    stammered Villefort.

    "Oh," said Monte Cristo, "I allow of no excuse. On Saturday,
    at six o'clock. I shall be expecting you, and if you fail to
    come, I shall think -- for how do I know to the contrary? --
    that this house, which his remained uninhabited for twenty
    years, must have some gloomy tradition or dreadful legend
    connected with it."

    "I will come, count, -- I will be sure to come," said
    Villefort eagerly.

    "Thank you," said Monte Cristo; "now you must permit me to
    take my leave of you."

    "You said before that you were obliged to leave us,
    monsieur," said Madame de Villefort, "and you were about to
    tell us why when your attention was called to some other
    subject."

    "Indeed madame," said Monte Cristo: "I scarcely know if I
    dare tell you where I am going."

    "Nonsense; say on."

    "Well, then, it is to see a thing on which I have sometimes
    mused for hours together."

    "What is it?"

    "A telegraph. So now I have told my secret."

    "A telegraph?" repeated Madame de Villefort.

    "Yes, a telegraph. I had often seen one placed at the end of
    a road on a hillock, and in the light of the sun its black
    arms, bending in every direction, always reminded me of the
    claws of an immense beetle, and I assure you it was never
    without emotion that I gazed on it, for I could not help
    thinking how wonderful it was that these various signs
    should be made to cleave the air with such precision as to
    convey to the distance of three hundred leagues the ideas
    and wishes of a man sitting at a table at one end of the
    line to another man similarly placed at the opposite
    extremity, and all this effected by a simple act of volition
    on the part of the sender of the message. I began to think
    of genii, sylphs, gnomes, in short, of all the ministers of
    the occult sciences, until I laughed aloud at the freaks of
    my own imagination. Now, it never occurred to me to wish for
    a nearer inspection of these large insects, with their long
    black claws, for I always feared to find under their stone
    wings some little human genius fagged to death with cabals,
    factions, and government intrigues. But one fine day I
    learned that the mover of this telegraph was only a poor
    wretch, hired for twelve hundred francs a year, and employed
    all day, not in studying the heavens like an astronomer, or
    in gazing on the water like an angler, or even in enjoying
    the privilege of observing the country around him, but all
    his monotonous life was passed in watching his
    white-bellied, black-clawed fellow insect, four or five
    leagues distant from him. At length I felt a desire to study
    this living chrysalis more closely, and to endeavor to
    understand the secret part played by these insect-actors
    when they occupy themselves simply with pulling different
    pieces of string."

    "And are you going there?"

    "I am."

    "What telegraph do you intend visiting? that of the home
    department, or of the observatory?"

    "Oh, no; I should find there people who would force me to
    understand things of which I would prefer to remain
    ignorant, and who would try to explain to me, in spite of
    myself, a mystery which even they do not understand. Ma foi,
    I should wish to keep my illusions concerning insects
    unimpaired; it is quite enough to have those dissipated
    which I had formed of my fellow-creatures. I shall,
    therefore, not visit either of these telegraphs, but one in
    the open country where I shall find a good-natured
    simpleton, who knows no more than the machine he is employed
    to work."

    "You are a singular man," said Villefort.

    "What line would you advise me to study?"

    "The one that is most in use just at this time."

    "The Spanish one, you mean, I suppose?"

    "Yes; should you like a letter to the minister that they
    might explain to you" --

    "No," said Monte Cristo; "since, as I told you before, I do
    not wish to comprehend it. The moment I understand it there
    will no longer exist a telegraph for me; it will he nothing
    more than a sign from M. Duchatel, or from M. Montalivet,
    transmitted to the prefect of Bayonne, mystified by two
    Greek words, tele, graphein. It is the insect with black
    claws, and the awful word which I wish to retain in my
    imagination in all its purity and all its importance."

    "Go then; for in the course of two hours it will be dark,
    and you will not be able to see anything."

    "Ma foi, you frighten me. Which is the nearest way?
    Bayonne?"

    "Yes; the road to Bayonne."

    "And afterwards the road to Chatillon?"

    "Yes."

    "By the tower of Montlhery, you mean?"

    "Yes."

    "Thank you. Good-by. On Saturday I will tell you my
    impressions concerning the telegraph." At the door the count
    was met by the two notaries, who had just completed the act
    which was to disinherit Valentine, and who were leaving
    under the conviction of having done a thing which could not
    fail of redounding considerably to their credit.
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